Standard light microscope histological evaluation of peripheral nerve lesions has been used routinely to assess peripheral nerve demyelination; however, the development of magnetic resonance (MR) methodology for assessing peripheral nerve may provide complementary information, with less expense and in less time than nerve histology methods. In this study, the utility of multicomponent NMR T(2) relaxation analysis for assessing myelin injury in toxicology studies was examined using two dithiocarbamates, N,N-diethyldithiocarbamate (DEDC) and pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate (PDTC), known to produce myelin injury and elevate copper in the nervous system. T(2) analysis was used in conjunction with standard histological methods to assess myelin injury and determine if dithiocarbamate-mediated copper accumulation in peripheral nerve was associated with more severe myelin lesions. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were administered i.p. DEDC for 8 weeks and maintained on either a diet containing normal (13 ppm) or elevated (200 ppm) copper. Another group of male Sprague-Dawley rats was administered oral PDTC and a 200 ppm copper diet, with controls given only the 200 ppm copper diet, for 47 weeks. Following exposures, the morphology of sciatic nerve was evaluated using light microscopy and multicomponent T(2) analysis of excised fixed nerves; and copper levels in sciatic nerve were determined using ICP-AES. Light microscopy demonstrated the presence of a primary myelinopathy in dithiocarbamate-exposed rats characterized by intramyelinic edema, demyelination, and secondary axonal degeneration. Both the nerve copper level and number of degenerated axons, as ascertained by ICP-AES and microscopy, respectively, were augmented by dietary copper supplementation in conjunction with administration of DEDC or PDTC. T(2) analysis revealed a decreased contribution from the shortest T(2) component in multicomponent T(2) spectra obtained from animals administered DEDC or PDTC, consistent with decreased myelin content; and the decrease of the myelin water component was inversely correlated to the levels of nerve copper and myelin lesion counts. Also, the T(2) analysis showed reduced variability compared to histological assessment. These studies support multicomponent T(2) analysis as a complementary method to light microscopic evaluations that may also be applicable to in vivo assessments.